Successful recruitment strategies for women in postpartum mental health trials.
Recruiting women into research protocols allows investigators to examine the efficacies of treatments and to study other outcomes among women with mental illnesses. However, achieving recruitment goals has been difficult for researchers. The objective of this study was to examine the success rates of different strategies for recruiting women into clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of postpartum major depression. This is a descriptive study designed to examine which recruitment efforts, over a 4-year period, yielded women who participated in the studies. It was conducted in an outpatient clinic affiliated with a major urban teaching hospital where women of childbearing age sought treatment for affective disorders. All women (n=589) who called about our research studies were systematically screened. The women were either pregnant or in the postpartum period. Our results show that in both studies, obstetricians and other healthcare professionals referred a large number of women. These referrals yielded relatively high rates of participation. However, other methods were differentially successful for the two studies: media appearances and advertising resulted in almost 50% of the screening calls for the prevention study, whereas mass mailings and other promotional materials were more effective for the treatment study. Those materials contributed 44% of screening calls for the treatment study. Our conclusions were that women were most likely to enter the research studies when referred by an obstetrician or other professional.
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